How to Maximize Your Team’s Performance in 2016

Dan Richards

For advisors early in their careers, success depends on their own efforts. But continuing success depends not on one’s performance, but rather on the efforts of their team. That’s why I made building a strong team a theme of my articles this past year. And that’s why I am finishing up with some key lessons from top-performing advisors on team communication, coaching and development.

The elements of an effective team

The starting point for these articles was an email from a successful advisor who is co-managing partner of an 11-person team. That email identified dealing with staff as by far the biggest challenge as they’ve grown. One expert who observed that “what it takes to build an initial business, which is driven by the founders’ skills and energy, is very different than what it takes to run a bigger business, where you need to leverage the skills of employees.”

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Dan Richards

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To learn more, I hosted a series of lunches with top-performing advisors to talk about what it took to build their teams. The advisors at those lunches identified seven discrete steps (summarized in the graphic below) to building and running the teams that are integral to their businesses

The first two steps were the subjects of two of my articles, The Skill Set for Exceptional Performance, which focused on establishing the right team culture and, Two Approaches to Landing New Clients, which outlined how different advisors defined clear roles for their teams. I covered the next three steps in How to Attract Top Talent. I discussed some of the challenges that advisors face in attracting and retaining top talent in Why Team Bonuses Hurt Performance, which outlined research on the impact of variable compensation.

“Impossible to over-communicate”

One topic of conversation at my lunches related to how best to effectively communicate with team members. Paul, a 30-year veteran with an $800 million practice and an eight-person team, started by saying that he has seen other advisors who take a “need to know” stance when it comes to communication with their team. By contrast, his view is that it is impossible to over-communicate with his team members. He outlined four ways that he communicates with his team:

  • Annually, they have a two-day offsite in which they analyze the past year and set goals and plans for the year ahead.
  • Quarterly, they meet for half a day to review progress and make any adjustments.
  • Weekly, they have a mandatory 30-minute Monday-morning meeting. They review progress and focus on things that worked well in the previous week and priorities for the coming week for each team member.
  • Daily, they meet for 10 minutes to ensure that everyone on the team is aware of key things happening that day. They also review client meetings taking place on the following day. That way all materials can be prepared and reviewed at the end of the day, and the team members in the meetings are aware of any recent conversations with the clients with whom they are meeting.

Another veteran advisor who participated in one of the lunches talked about the impact of a daily huddle to start the day – conducted standing to keep it short. This is a key method of ensuring that everyone on her team is aware of everything going on in the office. This advisor talked about how she revamped communication within her team after this was identified as a weakness at her annual planning session. Two team members volunteered to work on reviewing their internal communication process – 60 days later they had overhauled how the team communicates as a result.